Cosanti Foundation
A Scottsdale, Ariz., bridge exemplifies Soleri's unique design approach.

On April 9, the day architect Paolo Soleri died, high winds in Arizona caused his bronze-and-ceramic "wind bells," which were prevalent across the state, to ring loudly.

To many Arizonans, it was a fitting tribute to a locally-based designer who spent a long career blending architecture and ecology.

Soleri, an Italian immigrant who incorporated environmentalism and sustainability into designs long before it was trendy, was 93 years old. 


While many of his urban environments reside only in conceptual drawings—including massively vertical yet contained city-sized structures designed for up to two million inhabitants—Soleri and his Cosanti Foundation in the late 1960s began building their first experimental desert city, Arcosanti, 70 miles north of Phoenix.

Still under construction today and funded by donations and wind-bell revenue, Arcosanti is made up of 12 unique, organic-shaped buildings perched on a cliff above the Verde River.

Soleri died at Arcosanti, says the Cosanti Foundation.

Claire Carter, curator of a current Scottsdale, Ariz., exhibition on Soleri's work, says earth-casting techniques he learned to make the wind bells were scaled up to form concrete buildings.

Foundation President Jeff Stein says Soleri was more than just the grandfather of green building. "What he was after in his lifetime—and the work we still carry on at Arcosanti—has to do with reformulating how we think of buildings as separate objects and begin to think about how we can integrate them into the living biosphere of the planet," he says.

Soleri's early work also includes his striking bridge concepts. The first span to be constructed, in downtown Scottsdale in 2011, was awarded an ENR Southwest Best Projects award.